x_los: (OMG)
Just got off another exciting argument!call with my mother. I am literally never encouraging a visit again. Like, actually. This is WAY more wank than anything ever could be worth. I am willing to visit home for short periods, but no parent is coming over, ever. Too late to stop this visit, but not too late to learn from it.

She wanted to spend like £800 for everyone for three nights in a super boring, far out of town hotel b/c she'd left these arrangements too long and Fringe accomodation is difficult to get. Only like, two places were still available. I said that was a lot for the UK, where hotels were typically pretty cheap, and that Katy and I weren't v. comfortable with a super expensive place--if necessary we were cool sleeping in different places, we'd still see one another like all day.

She sent this VERY patronizing email:

"Your dad and I spoke and we agree that your idea to save money is fine. I certainly don't want either you or Katy to feel uncomfortable. I have looked through the list, and have sent you the two places that looked OK. obviously they are the most expensive on the list.
One is the 450 GBP, at the top, the other is at the bottom at 600 GBP. There are two things that we wont concede to, one, no one is sleeping on the floor, and two, Katy, will not be paying her own way. Tell her it is pointless to argue, that's the way it's going to be. She is also not going to be chipping in for her airfair, or meals and should order what ever the heck she wants. The "uncomfortableness" you mentioned is cute, beyond that offers nothing to sway us. I would have paid for Jake's hard costs of a trip like this when Molly and he were living together, so I don't recognize the difference. Please try to get the 600 GBP flat and book it from the 11th to the 15th."

So I found the people in Edinburgh renting their houses out for the Fringe--TONS--and contacted over 40 of them. I got her back like 20 NICE, available options--cheap, convenient, and characterful. She said she'd be okay with the two most expensive ones (though they were still significantly cheaper than her idea), but not without bitching a LOT about how my dad was 'making such a sacrifice here' and being really snotty about me saying that Sam, Katy and I wouldn't at all mind bringing an airmattress/sleeping bags and sleeping on the couch/the flats' fold out beds/these things we'd bring, as it was just for three nights. And there WERE suggestions with actual beds for absolutely everyone.

Today I call her back, to say 'so the one we decided on--did you firm that up, as we discussed?'

We'd finally gotten it to the two most expensive of my suggestions, before this. The cheaper one was RIGHT DOWNTOWN, so perfect. The other one was a short busride, generally a bit more inconvenient, because we'd be dependent on busses. My mom starts in all "oh well, I just don't knoooow how we can be sure these criagslist people are reeeeeeal"

And I was like, "well, er, as we discussed, you can't be 100%, but you can like, easily request a testamonial/their contact info/do a deposit to reserve it and pay in full when you get there and are satisfied?" And then she starts saying the more expensive one of my options has been talked down by £100. I say "...but that's not even conveinent, it's out on the bus route. We'd be depending on the bus, and it stops early." She's all "DON'T YOU THINK THAT DURING THE FESTIVAL THE CITY WILL CATCH ON TO DEMAND AND DO EXTENDED HOURS?!?!?!??!?!"

Um, no. I've been there. They do not. They're a civic transport infrastructure. They give no fucks about 'increased late night festival demand.' This is fucking Scotland. They want you to buy their tourist tat and BURN IN HELL.

So I try to explain this kind of cordially and she goes all "WELL I HATE EVERYTHING YOU'VE PICKED EVERYTHING EUGH." Dude, then... do it youself? But you should see the photos, these are NICE houses. I was looking through thinking, shit, all of these are FABULOUS, and give me the Shame.

Then she's all "WELL I CAN'T TALK TO YOU IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY!!! HOW DARE YOU TRY AND... MAKE SURE WE'RE NOT HOMELESS FOR THREE DAYS/THAT ALL YOUR WORK WASN'T WASTED?!?!?! SOME OF US ARE WORKING!!!!!!!"

Meanwhile she is telling my little sister Meghan how to clean the windows.

SO BUSY.
SO VERY BUSY!!!!!

Just-- every. fucking. conversation with her. It's like 'small thing'--->MUCH LARGER ACTUAL PROBLEM!!!!--->complete unwillingness to properly do it herself and not spend money like an idiot on stupid bullshit that won't even actually be convenient or give anyone pleasure. Spending money to stay somewhere nice and convenient: sure. Some fucking travellodge shit out on like, the fucking other side of the county: ...why even? She doesn't even HAVE a ton of money to throw away.

DED OF IRONY AND PRETENSION
Should I go to Edinburgh?
Georgian House
10 of Edinburgh's best hangover cafes
Kemble's Riot: grown-up panto
I can tell you that there are two kinds of dissertations: a good one, and a finished one. Finished is better.
Sylvester Stallone Releases Heartbreaking Statement About Son Sage’s Death
Ice cream soda: "In the United States, an "ice cream soda" typically refers to the drink containing soda water, syrup, and ice cream, whereas a "float" is generally ice cream in a soft drink."--Damn Right. Also: "Vaca Dourada: In Brazil, a vaca dourada or golden cow is an ice cream soda combination of vanilla ice cream and guaraná soda. It can be enriched with coconut or bananas." BRAZIL! TELL ME MORE!!
‘Weed Dating’ Is the Biggest Conceptual Letdown You May Ever Read About
contains a little bit about Doing the Fringe Cheaply
Mez's Amazing Demon Cat

Stars Use Baskets!! Can kind of not believe this is real.
Lawrence Croft
Britain flooded with 'brand police' to protect sponsors
Should bloggers charge for reviews?
Why Aren’t We Talking More About Deadbeat Dads?
Adam Worth: "the prototype for Sherlock Holmes' nemesis, Professor Moriarty."

Akbar's Adventures with the Elephant Hawa'i in 1561
x_los: (Default)
Things What We Saw At The Edinburgh Fringe, Part 2:


Tuesday:

Western Theater for Slackers:

It might be really good to start with this morning show, which serves as an amusing survey/refresher course for the history of Western Theater, and then go on through a Fringe schedule dotted with Serious Theater armed with amusing-and-pertinent contextualization.

They love Brecht for some unfathomable reason, and insulted both Chekov and John Sessions (the first was bad, but the latter had Bonny Kate truly irked)--they TOO felt compelled to do a musical number despite slagging off musical numbers (again, they didn't really offer up a reason, just a sort of bland 'ha, we all hate them, but anyway'), which was somewhat unfortunate because they were not really singers. The stock character who was pretty much the Todd from Scrubs was a bit funny, and the cast was solid. The stilted half-references to feminism were unfunny, cardboard-cutout and yet kind of nonsensical. Those should probably be better written or dropped entirely. Still, it was generally clever and amusing.

Medea:

THIS WAS SO--I don't even know. Not 'because it defies articulation' so much as 'we didn't actually end up seeing it.' Despite having bought tickets. It turned out to be staged ON MARS, literally off the edge of the map (and an American High School Student production? I don't even know...), which someone might have warned us about before we bought tickets? Or we could have been more observant, one of the two. Anyway, Katy staged Medea FOR me on a street corner instead, and that was pretty funny, so largely I have had the Greek Tragedy Experience.

Now I Know My BBC:

I wasn't expecting to like this and was kind of going expressly because Katy wanted to see it. This is by Toby Haddock, the guy who does Moths Ate My doctor Who Scarf, which I'd convinced myself could only be embarrassingly not funny and that I was way too cool for. I also anticipated a sea of references I couldn't possibly get, but no, this was one of my favorite things of the entire festival. This was warm, wise, witty, generally lovely, and highly recommended. It's endearing without ever being toothless enough to earn the soupy sobriquet of 'feel-good comedy.' It's political without being a polemic--as frankly, undeniably political as a comedy act in praise of the BBC and advocating its preservation must inevitably be, without the hackneyed Unfocused Embarrassing Liberalism that sours later Margaret Cho. The subtle over-arching story of him and the girl he ends up marrying is unobtrusive!win.

Wednesday

Shakespeare for Breakfast:

This was rough, but as I think they do a whole series of these morning sketch shows based off several Shakespeare plays, perhaps we should judge them by something nearer to improv-standards. It was very energetic for its time in the morning and came with free coffee or tea and a croissant, occasioning an excellent joke re: croissant theft from a character in the skits and Bonny Kate and I's theft of Several More Uneaten Croissants at the end. Maybe it was six between us. Maybe it was. Don't judge, haters.

This contained some UK Telly references that escaped me, and more songs by people who aren't singers, but who ever thought you'd see Leer with SONGS?! Not. I. It was lovely morning entertainment and I'd totally do it again, especially to catch a recap of a different play.

Sherlock Holmes and the Sound of the Baskervilles:

With Now I Know My BBC and Hamlet! the Musical, this was possibly one of the best things on at the Fringe. The cast was large and the venue and production values microscopic, but Marple, Holmes, Watson and to some extent Lady Baskerville (whose part was a bit too dull to allow her as much scope) acted the crap out of this amateurish, funny, charming play, with a really VERY good script and some fun musical numbers (albeit with big PAUSES before the singing started--every. time.). The songs were appropriated from random other places, and sung with altered lyrics (Be Prepared from the Lion King, the Beatles Yesterday, and something from Gilbert and Sullivan's Gondoliers? (really? /Gondo-fucking-liers?/)), but it was rubbish in the grandest way.

Beatonna has some GREAT comics on The Many Adaptations of Watson. See here and here. This play featured Proper!Competent!Watson, Stupid!Watson AND a dash of Gay!Watson at the end (please insert own joke about that being where he likes to be found here (then make another re: insertion, if it is to your taste)). The small Holmes/Watson saved for last is so cute--as is Watson's Typewriter Dependency (the name for someone's new indie band).

Oxford Review:

Of all the shows we saw, I suppose one had to be worst. This was free, but even so, in retrospect, I wouldn't have gone. Not because it was a choice between this and other shows--though obviously, that too--if it had been Oxford Review vs. sitting at home doing nothing--truly nothing--I might've opted for the wall-starring. I kept waiting for it to pick up and Become funny, but a series of awkward stale statements about Northerners and some ill-considered, under-baked political remarks later, still nothing. I had 'jokes' there for both of those, but I edited it out, because that didn't seem quite the right term for the Verbal Happenings I experienced.

It's not that humor can't be political, topical, cutting--but those jokes should be justified by saying something, anything, fresh or especially true? You can't just flag up Domestic Abuse and wait for a thin pity chuckle. When your Hipster Irony is so vague as to disappear into a light mist, your remarks are no longer comedic undermining of classism, they're just instances of classism. And not even specifically amusing classism at that?

I think what makes a lot of comics great is self-consciousness--whether it looks easy or whether its pained neuroticism is part of the humor, I think good comedy is serious shit, often the product of a rigorous examination of the material and delivery. Is this joke offensive? If so, is this funny enough that it's worth doing despite possibly offending people? Does it, bottom line, work? Does it make any sense? Is it funny? It didn't seem like any of them thought much about anything--how will this play, is this good enough to ask people to sit through, or (for people who weren't us with our special coupon) to pay to see? Is this new, is this interesting, is this going to catch any one's attention and further my career? Shit, anything. The skits seemed generally unfocused--throwing out a dozen lines to see if anything caught. A few of them were decentish actors, capable of delivering material, maybe, but ultimately they didn't have any to deliver.

I wondered if I was judging them harshly because it IS Oxford, and I might be inferring a smug complacency where none existed because I expect both high quality of them and for them to potentially be a bit up themselves. But I've had time to think, and I think I've decoupled those biases from my dislike of this show, which can stand alone and be liked or loathed on its own (de)merits.

The Footlights are this troupe's rather famously good Cambridge equivalent, but I wonder whether, as a uni group, they'd have been similarly sort of painful. However this felt rather worse than a random session of the UIowa sketch/improv group, and one would think this Review would be culled from the year's BEST and most successful skits. If this is the cream, what the fuck does the rest of the crop look like?
x_los: (Default)
Things What We Saw At The Edinburgh Fringe, Part 2:


Tuesday:

Western Theater for Slackers:

It might be really good to start with this morning show, which serves as an amusing survey/refresher course for the history of Western Theater, and then go on through a Fringe schedule dotted with Serious Theater armed with amusing-and-pertinent contextualization.

They love Brecht for some unfathomable reason, and insulted both Chekov and John Sessions (the first was bad, but the latter had Bonny Kate truly irked)--they TOO felt compelled to do a musical number despite slagging off musical numbers (again, they didn't really offer up a reason, just a sort of bland 'ha, we all hate them, but anyway'), which was somewhat unfortunate because they were not really singers. The stock character who was pretty much the Todd from Scrubs was a bit funny, and the cast was solid. The stilted half-references to feminism were unfunny, cardboard-cutout and yet kind of nonsensical. Those should probably be better written or dropped entirely. Still, it was generally clever and amusing.

Medea:

THIS WAS SO--I don't even know. Not 'because it defies articulation' so much as 'we didn't actually end up seeing it.' Despite having bought tickets. It turned out to be staged ON MARS, literally off the edge of the map (and an American High School Student production? I don't even know...), which someone might have warned us about before we bought tickets? Or we could have been more observant, one of the two. Anyway, Katy staged Medea FOR me on a street corner instead, and that was pretty funny, so largely I have had the Greek Tragedy Experience.

Now I Know My BBC:

I wasn't expecting to like this and was kind of going expressly because Katy wanted to see it. This is by Toby Haddock, the guy who does Moths Ate My doctor Who Scarf, which I'd convinced myself could only be embarrassingly not funny and that I was way too cool for. I also anticipated a sea of references I couldn't possibly get, but no, this was one of my favorite things of the entire festival. This was warm, wise, witty, generally lovely, and highly recommended. It's endearing without ever being toothless enough to earn the soupy sobriquet of 'feel-good comedy.' It's political without being a polemic--as frankly, undeniably political as a comedy act in praise of the BBC and advocating its preservation must inevitably be, without the hackneyed Unfocused Embarrassing Liberalism that sours later Margaret Cho. The subtle over-arching story of him and the girl he ends up marrying is unobtrusive!win.

Wednesday

Shakespeare for Breakfast:

This was rough, but as I think they do a whole series of these morning sketch shows based off several Shakespeare plays, perhaps we should judge them by something nearer to improv-standards. It was very energetic for its time in the morning and came with free coffee or tea and a croissant, occasioning an excellent joke re: croissant theft from a character in the skits and Bonny Kate and I's theft of Several More Uneaten Croissants at the end. Maybe it was six between us. Maybe it was. Don't judge, haters.

This contained some UK Telly references that escaped me, and more songs by people who aren't singers, but who ever thought you'd see Leer with SONGS?! Not. I. It was lovely morning entertainment and I'd totally do it again, especially to catch a recap of a different play.

Sherlock Holmes and the Sound of the Baskervilles:

With Now I Know My BBC and Hamlet! the Musical, this was possibly one of the best things on at the Fringe. The cast was large and the venue and production values microscopic, but Marple, Holmes, Watson and to some extent Lady Baskerville (whose part was a bit too dull to allow her as much scope) acted the crap out of this amateurish, funny, charming play, with a really VERY good script and some fun musical numbers (albeit with big PAUSES before the singing started--every. time.). The songs were appropriated from random other places, and sung with altered lyrics (Be Prepared from the Lion King, the Beatles Yesterday, and something from Gilbert and Sullivan's Gondoliers? (really? /Gondo-fucking-liers?/)), but it was rubbish in the grandest way.

Beatonna has some GREAT comics on The Many Adaptations of Watson. See here and here. This play featured Proper!Competent!Watson, Stupid!Watson AND a dash of Gay!Watson at the end (please insert own joke about that being where he likes to be found here (then make another re: insertion, if it is to your taste)). The small Holmes/Watson saved for last is so cute--as is Watson's Typewriter Dependency (the name for someone's new indie band).

Oxford Review:

Of all the shows we saw, I suppose one had to be worst. This was free, but even so, in retrospect, I wouldn't have gone. Not because it was a choice between this and other shows--though obviously, that too--if it had been Oxford Review vs. sitting at home doing nothing--truly nothing--I might've opted for the wall-starring. I kept waiting for it to pick up and Become funny, but a series of awkward stale statements about Northerners and some ill-considered, under-baked political remarks later, still nothing. I had 'jokes' there for both of those, but I edited it out, because that didn't seem quite the right term for the Verbal Happenings I experienced.

It's not that humor can't be political, topical, cutting--but those jokes should be justified by saying something, anything, fresh or especially true? You can't just flag up Domestic Abuse and wait for a thin pity chuckle. When your Hipster Irony is so vague as to disappear into a light mist, your remarks are no longer comedic undermining of classism, they're just instances of classism. And not even specifically amusing classism at that?

I think what makes a lot of comics great is self-consciousness--whether it looks easy or whether its pained neuroticism is part of the humor, I think good comedy is serious shit, often the product of a rigorous examination of the material and delivery. Is this joke offensive? If so, is this funny enough that it's worth doing despite possibly offending people? Does it, bottom line, work? Does it make any sense? Is it funny? It didn't seem like any of them thought much about anything--how will this play, is this good enough to ask people to sit through, or (for people who weren't us with our special coupon) to pay to see? Is this new, is this interesting, is this going to catch any one's attention and further my career? Shit, anything. The skits seemed generally unfocused--throwing out a dozen lines to see if anything caught. A few of them were decentish actors, capable of delivering material, maybe, but ultimately they didn't have any to deliver.

I wondered if I was judging them harshly because it IS Oxford, and I might be inferring a smug complacency where none existed because I expect both high quality of them and for them to potentially be a bit up themselves. But I've had time to think, and I think I've decoupled those biases from my dislike of this show, which can stand alone and be liked or loathed on its own (de)merits.

The Footlights are this troupe's rather famously good Cambridge equivalent, but I wonder whether, as a uni group, they'd have been similarly sort of painful. However this felt rather worse than a random session of the UIowa sketch/improv group, and one would think this Review would be culled from the year's BEST and most successful skits. If this is the cream, what the fuck does the rest of the crop look like?
x_los: (Daleks Venerate Shakespeare.)
Things What We Saw At The Edinburgh Fringe, Part 1:

Sunday:

Flanders and Swann (the not dead equivalent):

'Flanders and Swann' was (were?) charming--not the real guys, obvs, but good standup and songs with great delivery by a terrifyingly INTENSE man with eyes like gimlets of maaaaadness, who I hope really DOES live in Chelsea and condemn his partner to living in Battersea--for verisimilitude. Katy surprised to learn that I was surprised to learn F&S were not actually gay lovers (Terribly House and Garden was not autobiographical, it turns out (also apparently they didn't even really like each other? Like Gilbert and Sullivan! I always feel personally affronted when I discover these things. WHY CAN'T FAMOUS PAIRS BE FRIENDS?! Apparently to have a Great Colaboration all you have to do it not particularly like each other (in fact 'initial distaste' ossified by countless performances into 'quiet loathing' might be best))).

Caucasian Chalk Circle (Brecht!!--so serious he must be German):

I hadn't seen this one, but both my companions, Bonny Kate and Intrepid Seaman Sam, had already. A very YOUNG production of uni kids, with thick clown make up, that lifted itself above its Juggalo origins due to some really great staging and acting. Lots of remarkably engaging performances, and while the presentation was unconventional I felt it didn't really shatter the notions of Theatricality in the desired Brechtian manner--it was more hyper-theatrical.

Which is good because that Brecht 'let us break the fourth wall because audiences are otherwise incapable of critical thinking or transferring ideas' thing is utter shit. Using theater expressly as a vehicle to peddle insufficiently considered, fundamentally uninteresting first-wave notions of communism and to relentlessly pound a message into your audience rather than engage them in a dialogue about the issues in question is the Left's answer to the unmitigated shit that is Ayn Rand novels, and all the more insulting because

1) the Left should know better, and
2) because Brecht actually has some talent to piss away on using theater as the beast of burden for his political screed.

Anyway, it was an interesting play, well-produced by people who believe in theater as a self-justifying artistic medium in a way Brecht never did, thus providing an example of its aforementioned power. ...bitch.

Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theater:

As with Flanders and Swann, this was another pick of Bonny Kate's. And then we were talking in the auditorium and it came out that she'd only seen his End of Time parody, whereas I'd seen loads more of his shit?

The poor man had it hard-going, as the audience was a unwilling to engage with him on the World Cup (theater goers do not like football: fact?), suggestions of television shows for his semi-improvised comedic riffing, etc. It was still v. charming and sweet. Love the Michael Jackson song lyrics. Was shocked that he came out and bowed himself, ruining my deep belief in sentient socks and their internecine feuding. Now I am beginning to question the Great Pumpkin!! What a death of faith for Erin.

Every damn thing we saw had songs, often unintentionally--except, as Bonny Kate points out, for 'Now I Know My BBC.'

Monday:

Potted Panto:

The men who struggled through the story night to bring Bonny Kate Potted Potter earlier this year--maybe, she can't really remember, which undercuts their Epic Struggle, but you know, whatever, WHATEVER--struggle instead through the hellishly crowded venue that is Pleasance Courtyard to bring you a compressed retelling of six popular pantos. I have never really experienced Pantos, those most English of Christmas entertainments, but Katy has told me Lots about them (and I listened to 'Oh No It Isn't'), so I felt prepared.

Many many MANY children attended this show, but a fair amount of people our own age did as well. Intrepid Sailor Sam and I experienced the motherfucking magic of British theater. It was childish but in the best way, and now I need to go to a Christmas panto. The Prince Charming/Lord Flashheart character esp. good, and the accidental bursting of a prop pumpkin against the lighting rig was the accidental!best part. Sadly during the 3-D experience I did /not/ get any candy hurled at me. V. disappointed that wild ride through the candy factory on Cinderella's Carriage to escape the Ball should be so bootless (aha. Boots are shoes, and she's missing a--well. You know.).

Hamlet! the Musical:

Turned out to have professional production values, a large cast, and the most poorly-designed auditorium in all Fringetopia. Verily I bobbed around the head of the man in front of me whenever an actor moved, constantly craning for a better view--well, for any thing that could be called a view by even the most generous-minded. In that unventilated hell-box I slowly roasted in my own juices, and by the end of the first act I was probably delicious.

Except a weak number about Laertes being Latin (he was much better by the end when he returned from Paris French), my inherent dislike of the sort of puppets that consist of tiny bodies topped by human heads poked through a curtain (only Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, thank god), and beginning somewhat slowly, this was one of the strongest musicals we saw. The tunes were a bit catchy, the lyrics and dialogue were consistently funny, it had some good acting--I'd buy a soundtrack if I had spare cash.

Though it was entirely a comedy, I feel my Shakespeare!slasher friends should know that Hamlet! the Musical has Horatio and Ophelia played by the same person. AT LAST HAMLET CAN FIND REAL LOVE, VIA THE MAGIC OF DOUBBLING!

The Edge:

Intrepid Sailor Sam and I saw this one at his request. It had a good script, and was well acted, but it was nothing remarkable or new, I suppose? I really dislike the internet's appropriation of the term 'trigger' and the word 'triggery' to label anything slightly awkward or uncomfortable. A conversation you'd simply rather not have is not 'triggery,' and it insults people with actual problems and devalues the term to the point of uselessness to say so. This play's drawn-out, graphic reference to the incestuous rape of a young girl by her father and his friends could, however, be deeply uncomfortably for people who'd shared similar experiences, and could justify the term and the attendant warnings the internet is so fond of.

As such, though I wasn't myself offended, if I were producing this play I might have made clear in the description that this sort of thing was going to go down. Someone who was in a similar situation as a child could have been very disturbed and hurt. I'm not saying that really serious topics aren't a fit concern for art--of course they are. And a play could occasionally suffer from having to lay its matter on the table before the action brings you to the necessary revelations. Publicizing those aspects could also seem slightly sensationalist--as in 'come see our play, it has some crazy messed up shit like...'. But on balance, I think it might have been best (especially as this troupe was working with a charity for the prevention of violence to children) to protect victims of such violence by letting them know up-front that this is going to be a central topic of an intense play about teenagers committing suicide, staged in an incredibly intimate venue, and then letting them decide for themselves whether or not they're interested in seeing that.

Plague! the Musical:

While Hamlet was fun times, Plague! the Musical was somewhat weak. It had some good script moments and highish production values, and some poor singing. The anachronistic American-accented rats!! plot was a bit random, was was German!Death. The songs were generally rather forgettable, and the female lead a bit wet. I enjoyed the Undertaker Montage, the costumes were pretty nice, and the Undertaker Friend!Character was well-acted and fun. The revelation that the Pied Piper, previously boyfriend of Female Lead, was also her Uncle, and her father had been fighting with him all this time due to that, was more awkward than funny--wait so she's slept with her Uncle without knowing it? Er. Maybe that's kind of amusingly delivered, but also it's weird. And the BROTHERS ALL ALONG!! trope is as anemic as when it pops up in Sherlock Episode 1 with Mycroft.
x_los: (Daleks Venerate Shakespeare.)
Things What We Saw At The Edinburgh Fringe, Part 1:

Sunday:

Flanders and Swann (the not dead equivalent):

'Flanders and Swann' was (were?) charming--not the real guys, obvs, but good standup and songs with great delivery by a terrifyingly INTENSE man with eyes like gimlets of maaaaadness, who I hope really DOES live in Chelsea and condemn his partner to living in Battersea--for verisimilitude. Katy surprised to learn that I was surprised to learn F&S were not actually gay lovers (Terribly House and Garden was not autobiographical, it turns out (also apparently they didn't even really like each other? Like Gilbert and Sullivan! I always feel personally affronted when I discover these things. WHY CAN'T FAMOUS PAIRS BE FRIENDS?! Apparently to have a Great Colaboration all you have to do it not particularly like each other (in fact 'initial distaste' ossified by countless performances into 'quiet loathing' might be best))).

Caucasian Chalk Circle (Brecht!!--so serious he must be German):

I hadn't seen this one, but both my companions, Bonny Kate and Intrepid Seaman Sam, had already. A very YOUNG production of uni kids, with thick clown make up, that lifted itself above its Juggalo origins due to some really great staging and acting. Lots of remarkably engaging performances, and while the presentation was unconventional I felt it didn't really shatter the notions of Theatricality in the desired Brechtian manner--it was more hyper-theatrical.

Which is good because that Brecht 'let us break the fourth wall because audiences are otherwise incapable of critical thinking or transferring ideas' thing is utter shit. Using theater expressly as a vehicle to peddle insufficiently considered, fundamentally uninteresting first-wave notions of communism and to relentlessly pound a message into your audience rather than engage them in a dialogue about the issues in question is the Left's answer to the unmitigated shit that is Ayn Rand novels, and all the more insulting because

1) the Left should know better, and
2) because Brecht actually has some talent to piss away on using theater as the beast of burden for his political screed.

Anyway, it was an interesting play, well-produced by people who believe in theater as a self-justifying artistic medium in a way Brecht never did, thus providing an example of its aforementioned power. ...bitch.

Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theater:

As with Flanders and Swann, this was another pick of Bonny Kate's. And then we were talking in the auditorium and it came out that she'd only seen his End of Time parody, whereas I'd seen loads more of his shit?

The poor man had it hard-going, as the audience was a unwilling to engage with him on the World Cup (theater goers do not like football: fact?), suggestions of television shows for his semi-improvised comedic riffing, etc. It was still v. charming and sweet. Love the Michael Jackson song lyrics. Was shocked that he came out and bowed himself, ruining my deep belief in sentient socks and their internecine feuding. Now I am beginning to question the Great Pumpkin!! What a death of faith for Erin.

Every damn thing we saw had songs, often unintentionally--except, as Bonny Kate points out, for 'Now I Know My BBC.'

Monday:

Potted Panto:

The men who struggled through the story night to bring Bonny Kate Potted Potter earlier this year--maybe, she can't really remember, which undercuts their Epic Struggle, but you know, whatever, WHATEVER--struggle instead through the hellishly crowded venue that is Pleasance Courtyard to bring you a compressed retelling of six popular pantos. I have never really experienced Pantos, those most English of Christmas entertainments, but Katy has told me Lots about them (and I listened to 'Oh No It Isn't'), so I felt prepared.

Many many MANY children attended this show, but a fair amount of people our own age did as well. Intrepid Sailor Sam and I experienced the motherfucking magic of British theater. It was childish but in the best way, and now I need to go to a Christmas panto. The Prince Charming/Lord Flashheart character esp. good, and the accidental bursting of a prop pumpkin against the lighting rig was the accidental!best part. Sadly during the 3-D experience I did /not/ get any candy hurled at me. V. disappointed that wild ride through the candy factory on Cinderella's Carriage to escape the Ball should be so bootless (aha. Boots are shoes, and she's missing a--well. You know.).

Hamlet! the Musical:

Turned out to have professional production values, a large cast, and the most poorly-designed auditorium in all Fringetopia. Verily I bobbed around the head of the man in front of me whenever an actor moved, constantly craning for a better view--well, for any thing that could be called a view by even the most generous-minded. In that unventilated hell-box I slowly roasted in my own juices, and by the end of the first act I was probably delicious.

Except a weak number about Laertes being Latin (he was much better by the end when he returned from Paris French), my inherent dislike of the sort of puppets that consist of tiny bodies topped by human heads poked through a curtain (only Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, thank god), and beginning somewhat slowly, this was one of the strongest musicals we saw. The tunes were a bit catchy, the lyrics and dialogue were consistently funny, it had some good acting--I'd buy a soundtrack if I had spare cash.

Though it was entirely a comedy, I feel my Shakespeare!slasher friends should know that Hamlet! the Musical has Horatio and Ophelia played by the same person. AT LAST HAMLET CAN FIND REAL LOVE, VIA THE MAGIC OF DOUBBLING!

The Edge:

Intrepid Sailor Sam and I saw this one at his request. It had a good script, and was well acted, but it was nothing remarkable or new, I suppose? I really dislike the internet's appropriation of the term 'trigger' and the word 'triggery' to label anything slightly awkward or uncomfortable. A conversation you'd simply rather not have is not 'triggery,' and it insults people with actual problems and devalues the term to the point of uselessness to say so. This play's drawn-out, graphic reference to the incestuous rape of a young girl by her father and his friends could, however, be deeply uncomfortably for people who'd shared similar experiences, and could justify the term and the attendant warnings the internet is so fond of.

As such, though I wasn't myself offended, if I were producing this play I might have made clear in the description that this sort of thing was going to go down. Someone who was in a similar situation as a child could have been very disturbed and hurt. I'm not saying that really serious topics aren't a fit concern for art--of course they are. And a play could occasionally suffer from having to lay its matter on the table before the action brings you to the necessary revelations. Publicizing those aspects could also seem slightly sensationalist--as in 'come see our play, it has some crazy messed up shit like...'. But on balance, I think it might have been best (especially as this troupe was working with a charity for the prevention of violence to children) to protect victims of such violence by letting them know up-front that this is going to be a central topic of an intense play about teenagers committing suicide, staged in an incredibly intimate venue, and then letting them decide for themselves whether or not they're interested in seeing that.

Plague! the Musical:

While Hamlet was fun times, Plague! the Musical was somewhat weak. It had some good script moments and highish production values, and some poor singing. The anachronistic American-accented rats!! plot was a bit random, was was German!Death. The songs were generally rather forgettable, and the female lead a bit wet. I enjoyed the Undertaker Montage, the costumes were pretty nice, and the Undertaker Friend!Character was well-acted and fun. The revelation that the Pied Piper, previously boyfriend of Female Lead, was also her Uncle, and her father had been fighting with him all this time due to that, was more awkward than funny--wait so she's slept with her Uncle without knowing it? Er. Maybe that's kind of amusingly delivered, but also it's weird. And the BROTHERS ALL ALONG!! trope is as anemic as when it pops up in Sherlock Episode 1 with Mycroft.

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